Happy Endings

My first taste of really good Asian food was many years ago in Anchorage at a wonderful restaurant called the Tea Leaf, that unfortunately is no longer there. Their menu introduced me to many dishes, but Mongolian beef, hot sour soup and egg rolls were favorites.

Enjoying these delectable dishes in the dark, oriental restaurant with my family was special. We would order hot tea and sit back to relax and anxiously await a wonderful meal. I envisioned the chefs in their white coats and aprons back in the kitchen cooking our dinner in big, worn, hot woks, clouds of fragrant steam rising up from them, sizzling hot food being stirred and tossed over the hot flames in a well-seasoned pan. The sights, sounds and delicious smells were a feast for the senses. It all inspired me to search for authentic recipes so I could replicate the food at home, but I certainly knew I couldn’t come close to the experience of being there.

I’ve tried several Mongolian beef recipes over the years that were tasty, but never found a version like that made at the Tea Leaf — the crispy, tender beef with little extra browned bits on the edges of the meat pieces and deep, rich sauce tasting sweet, salty, garlicky and gingery, all in one bite; the fun, deep-fried white noodles, puffed and crunchy scattered on top of that heavenly pile of tasty meat and green onions that came served in a beautiful oriental bowl.

Mongolian Beef

My search is over! This recipe is the most authentic one I’ve come across yet and is easily made in about a half an hour. Don’t substitute or change the quantities on the ingredients, as the end result won’t be as good.

Ingredients

This step is optional, but fun. The noodles take 30 seconds to fry and get puffy.

1 -ounce vermicelli (mung bean) noodle, another name for them is cellophane noodle – break into 2-inch size pieces

2 cups oil to deep fry vermicelli

Get oil very hot in a wok, about 425 degrees. Deep fry vermicelli and transfer to paper towel lined plate. Set aside for sprinkling over beef before serving.

1- pound beef flank steak or tenderloin or New York cut (use similar cuts of moose if you have it; it’s perfect for this dish and my preference)

1/4 cup cornstarch to coat meat

1/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil

2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced

1 tablespoon fresh garlic minced

1/3 cup lite soy sauce- lower sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

4 scallions, green parts only, cut into 2- inch pieces

Directions:

Slice the meat against the grain into thin pieces about ¼ inch thick with a sharp knife.

Add meat to a Ziploc bag with the cornstarch and work it around in the bag making sure each piece is fully coated with cornstarch. Set aside.

Add the oil to a large, non-stick frying pan and heat it up on medium- high heat. Get the oil good and hot.

Turn up the heat to high and add the steak to the pan in a single layer (don’t crowd it in the pan) and cook on each side for 1 minute.

Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook the steak in batches. You want to get a good sear on the steak and get the pieces crispy and browned on the edges. If you crowd the pan, your steak will steam instead of sear.

When the steak is done cooking, remove it from the pan to a serving bowl.

Add the ginger and garlic to the frying pan and sauté for 10-15 seconds.

Add the soy sauce, water and dark brown sugar to the pan, stirring well and let it come to a boil.

Add the steak back to the pan and let the sauce thicken for 20-30 seconds.

The cornstarch on the steak should thicken the sauce, but if you find it isn’t thickening enough, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of cold water and stir to dissolve, add to the pan and continue to cook until sauce is thick, about 30 seconds.

Add the green onions, stir to combine everything, and cook for a final 30 seconds.

Return to bowl, sprinkle with fried vermicelli and serve immediately with rice.

The evening I served an elaborate Asian meal to friends, I also served French silk chocolate pie for dessert. Not Asian at all, but chocolate, which made for a very happy ending to a delicious meal and enjoyable evening.

French Silk Chocolate Pie

I’ve been in love with this pie since a dear friend made it for me many years ago. It’s easy, decadent and only takes one hour to chill.

1 store bought chocolate cookie crust or graham cracker crust

½ cup butter (softened)

¾ cup sugar

2 ounces unsweetened good quality chocolate squares

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

2 eggs- room temperature

Hot fudge sundae sauce

Cool Whip topping or sweetened whip cream

Chocolate bar

Maraschino cherries with stems on them

Directions

In microwave, melt chocolate, set aside to cool.

In medium bowl, cream butter, gradually add sugar, cream well.

Mix in melted, cooled chocolate and vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time, beating 5 minutes each, and scraping sides of bowl often to incorporate all sugar.

(Beat until no longer any grains of sugar).

Spoon and smooth into pie crust.

Chill until set, about 1 hour.

Serve topped with Cool Whip, or home-made sweetened whipping cream.

I added warm hot fudge sundae sauce and drizzled a little over the whip cream on each individual piece of pie.

Decorate with chocolate shavings from chocolate bar. Use a vegetable peeler to peel little pieces of chocolate over each piece of pie and top with a maraschino cherry.

*Double this recipe for a 9-inch deep dish pie.

Remember to add the best ingredient to every recipe you cook- love!

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